A little piece of France nestled amongst the Pacific Islands – New Caledonia is a unique offering, and Noumea embodies its spirit perfectly. Noumea has those beautiful tropical beaches and that laidback island vibe that the Pacific is famous for, and yet the delis are stocked with breadsticks, cheese and pate, and the locals undoubtedly have that stylish French edge. Whether it’s sandy beaches, the French je ne sais quoi or Karnak culture that brings you to Noumea, here are our top 5 things you don’t want to miss.
1. Marche Municipal de Noumea
If there’s one thing the French have well and truly discovered, it’s that food is the essence of life. It’s certainly a philosophy they brought with them to New Caledonia, as even the cheap takeaway food here is delicious. But probably the best place of all for foodies is the biggest market, Marche Municipal de Noumea (also known as the Moselle Market), which sells all types of fresh food.
2. Noumea Aquarium
Noumea is much more developed than most of its Pacific neighbours, largely thanks to the many French dollars (well, euros) that have been pumped into the nation. One of the many projects they support is that of the Noumea Aquarium, meaning it is a very fancy place, with an amazing variety of fish and other sea critters. There’s also a somewhat bizarre but amusing exhibit posing the age-old question: are dugongs mermaids? Yes, really – haven’t you always wanted to know?
3. Lemon Bay (Baie des Citrons)
Its French name does sound a little more fancy, but whatever its name, it’s probably the best beach in Noumea. By day, this kilometre-long beach is popular with families because the sea is calm and perfect for swimming. By night, however, the adults come out to play and there’s a good selection of bars, restaurants and nightclubs near the water’s edge – French champagne is the drink of choice, of course!
4. Tjibaou Cultural Centre
Although Noumea is distinctly French, you will also soon notice the many influences of Karnak (Indigenous) culture. There is still a large Karnak community in Noumea, and a number of attractions that are devoted to teaching visitors about their rich and interesting history. One of the best places to learn more is at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre, which showcases many exhibits including different types of Melanesian huts.
5. Cathedral de Noumea
This Roman Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in town, having been constructed in tribute to Saint Joseph back in the late 19th Century. It enjoys a great view over the town of Noumea, and the nearby bays. But perhaps the most impressive sight of all is its beautiful stained glass window, which depicts many different Biblical stories. There is also a pretty chandelier that is made from some of the tin that was mined when the French first arrived on New Caledonia.